It’s one thing to understand what your preference for learning is. It is quite another, to do something with that knowledge. Remember, knowledge is NOT power. The APPLICATION of knowledge brings you POWER.
When we speak of style, we generally refer to a particular way people dress, talk, walk, or carry themselves. In education, we speak about another type of style—learning style. Simply put, this refers to the factors that affect how a person learns.
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Even more specifically, it is helpful for students to understand their individual learning preferences—or how they best process (take in and put out) information. One recognized and highly-respected learning preference inventory is the VARK (Version 7.1. © 2010. Neil D. Fleming and C. Bonwell, www.vark-learn.com). It recognizes four preferences. Your style might show a clear preference for one over the other three. Or you may be “multi-modal” and readily draw on more than one preference. A brief summary of each preference looks like this:
- Visual. Seeing something helps you best process the information before you. In a classroom situation (or business meeting), you would more readily attend to visual stimuli. Seeing diagrams, photos, or videos helps you understand the presentation.
- Aural (or auditory). Auditory learners lean on their sense of hearing to process information. They can listen to and grasp the meaning of a lecture, for instance. These folks might even be able to listen to directions and be able to follow them without having to put pen to paper.
- Read-write. These learners are comfortable reading and writing during the learning process. Blogs, books, magazines, and essays can help them understand a new concept or issue in class. As the label implies, they learn best by reading, taking notes and writing summaries.
- Kinesthetic. These students might get more from a lesson if they are able to move about and sense the lesson at hand. Field trips may work better for them than reading a textbook chapter. Building a model will be more helpful than seeing a picture of one.
It’s one thing to understand what your preference for learning is. It is quite another, to do something with that knowledge. Remember, knowledge is NOT power. The APPLICATION of knowledge brings you POWER. Here are a couple of quick points to keep in mind to help you use your knowledge of learning preferences. (Piscitelli, p. 136, 2013)
If you show a preference for visual learning:
- Ask yourself, “How can I use visual aids to help me understand my class work (or on-the-job project)?” A few suggestions include:
- If available, use the visual aids on the textbook’s online Web site.
- Perhaps your instructors (or meeting organizers) have posted PowerPoint presentations or outlines on their Web sites; if so print them.
- Change your note-taking strategy to include drawings, diagrams, and flow charts
- Find online videos (like the ones with this blog) to help you understand a concept or an issue.
If you show a preference for auditory (aural) learning:
- Ask yourself, “How can I use verbal clues to help me understand my class work (or on-the-job project)?” A few suggestions include:
- Tape record yourself (or the presentation)—and play it back.
- When available, use audio notes for text books.
- Listen to books on disc to “read” inspirational material.
- Download a podcast to your smart phone or other digital devices.
If you show a preference for read-write learning:
- Ask yourself, “How can I use print material and my writing skills to help me understand my class work (or on-the-job project)?” A few suggestions include:
- Read textbook introductions, key terms, learning outcomes, and summaries to help focus your thoughts.
- If there are activities in your book (or job manual), write the answers, read your answers, and reflect on your answers.
- In meetings, take notes.
If you show a preference for kinesthetic learning:
- Ask yourself, “How can I use movement to help me understand my class work (or on-the-job project)?” A few suggestions include:
- When possible construct a model of your class material or work project.
- If it helps, move around (pace) while learning new concepts.
- Get up from your work area at regular intervals for a stretch break.
For teachers and trainers: Last week in class, when we were discussing learning style and preference, one of my students had a revelation. (I love it when that happens!) She said, “You do that! You use all of those.” Well, maybe not as often as I should, but I consciously strive to address multiple learning preferences in every lesson and keynote presentation I deliver. My thought is that I will at least have a better than average chance of capturing the attention of the people in front of me if I am able to draw on each of the four different preferences. Think about that the next time you have to get a point across in a class presentation or make a pitch to a client. If you prepare and present for all learning preferences you will create more opportunity for getting your point across—and your audience will more enthusiastically embrace you and your message.
Once you understand how you learn and what you can do with your particular learning preference you will have increased your chances to master tasks in front of you.
For more on learning styles and learning preferences, see my book Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? 3rd edition (Pearson Education). Please visit my website (www.stevepiscitelli.com), contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Pearson Education, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!
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© 2012. Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog.